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Strategy is a full house

| by Matthew Fretwell

A royal flush beats a full house any day—every day. 

I’m not a gambling man—never was—but it’s the best possible hand to occupy if you are. Rarely is someone dealt a four of a kind or a royal flush—but as luck would have it—it happens. 

Strategy is a full house—but leadership is not about luck.

The late management guru Peter Drucker has been credited with saying, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” 

But, before you fold, hold onto that full house for a minute. 

Take the safe bet—understanding visionary leadership

To be effective in leadership it is imperative to understand, mold, and shift the corporate DNA (DNAc) of the organization, from time to time. I’m not talking about the demographic of the employees, but the specific culture (values, vision, mission, and goals).

You should never set out to strategize without having an ample understanding of your own DNAc

A recent Forbes article studied 450 London companies and found that “despite culture being in the top three priorities for company boards, only 20 percent of 450 London-based directors and board members reported spending the time required to manage and improve it.”[1]

Too many leaders want to strategize, make models, or wing it, and completely neglect who they are, what they do, and why.

Picture the Apostle Paul in Athens, he utilized a gospel strategy—and by immersing himself within the Athenian culture, he knew who he was reaching (Acts 17:16–31). However, Paul knew the gospel—he intimately knew his DNAc—very well.

It’s a safe bet that your strategy will lose if you don’t know who you are, what you do, and why you do it. Strategy is useless without knowledge.

What is your vision? (where do you want to be in three to five years?)

What is your mission? (how you will get there?)

What are your values? (what are you passionate about, what motivates you?)

What are your goals? (How will you know you succeeded? What does it look like?)

Handling what you’re dealt—becoming a strategic innovator

Strategy eats culture for breakfast. And everyone wants dinner. When I was an executive chef, one of the things I loved about the culinary arts was innovation and creativity. 

With that stated, while I still love change, I should state that some things must remain unchanged (i.e., the gospel, always getting the TV remote, etc.). We know that culture constantly changes because people change. Sort of like winning a hand of poker—the dealer shuffles the cards and new hands are dealt.

This means that a good leader should constantly be reading and researching regarding the shifting cultures—which old things need to be discarded, which should remain. 

Good leaders become (and are) strategic innovators. They should be able to spot a shift in culture before it happens. Having a firm grasp on your DNAc will assist you in knowing what needs to change and what cannot.

Visionary leadership that consistently views and assesses the trends may be able to better maximize their strategic creativity to match the shifting culture. Sometimes you may throw out a high caliber king and queen—hoping to receive a pair of aces! 

As a leader, it’s important to reflect and make proper assessments as to why the organization desires to hold onto specific strategies, models, or outreaches. But don’t look to the past to see the future. Leaders are people who take risks.

Be prepared to show your cards—lead confidently

President Truman once declared, “The buck stops here.” There comes a time when there’s no one to blame. All roads lead to Rome—so to speak. All of your hard work and dedication will be put to praxis.

As a leader, be prepared to give an answer to anyone. Put the time in. Do your research. Strategize with intentionality. Be confident about your work. Invest in others. Continue to educate yourself.

Basically, your organization or church will not grow and mature without a healthy and educated leader. And, all of the strategy and programs in the world will never outsmart culture. 


[1] Andrew Cave. Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast. So What's For Lunch? (Nov. 9, 2017)

Photo source: istock 

Matthew Fretwell

Matt Fretwell is married, has three daughters, is an author, revitalization pastor, national director of operations for New Breed Network, and leadership coach. Matt holds a doctorate from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Great Commission reproducible disciple-making strategies. Matt also writes for Church Planter Magazine and interviews well-known evangelical leaders on his discipleship podcast, The Wretched & The Wrecked.

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This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.
Isaiah 48:17 (NLT)
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